A group of 6. Riding from Oslo to Stockholm. 800km in the ever-changing conditions of Scandinavian spring.
Sweden in April. Scandinavia in April. Out in the woods, in a little cottage, en röd stuga as the Swedes call it. Waking up early. The sound of a quietly sleeping house, a dog barking, and a few optimistic birds chirping. I add to the noise when I put on the coffee machine. The smell of it will soon wake up the others, still sleeping above.
As I bring the coffee and some chocolate, a morning ritual for me, out on the porch, I see the mist hovering over the fields. Lighter and lighter for every minute until it suddenly is burned off. I haven´t even finished my mug of coffee in that time, so I think to myself; this will be a good day.
Our bikes are lined up like soldiers, or mules. Still covered in the morning dew. Steel, carbon, and titanium. Cleaned, oiled and adjusted for another day on gravel and Swedish, frost-heaved tarmac.
Frost heaving (“tele-hiv”) means that the tarmac is lifted when the soil underneath it freezes in winter and then subsequently it melts in springtime, you get holes and cracks in the road that can be a real challenge. We fight it off with 28mm tires and lower tire-pressure.
I pick up my iPhone (the best camera is the one that’s with you!) and take a few pictures of the landscape. The pictures don’t need any filters to look altered; the colors of the late Scandinavian spring are … pale. The grass is not very thick yet and has a light green hue, almost opaque, the wheat has just started its way up from the soil and the leaves on the birch-trees are just slowly folding out.
Pale is also how I feel and look when I get in and see myself in the mirror. A double espresso while eating a bowl of porridge brings color back to my cheeks.
Everyone is awake. Some are eating, some checking mail, the weather or Instagram. Preparing their kit, long legs or just knee warmers? Routine stuff. There is low chatter and a relaxed sensation before the next stage of our trip.
A trip has an end. We all know where we will end up. And yet we don´t focus on that. We have talked amongst us about how we find pleasure in «just » riding, totally independent of the “need to reach the goal ». On the bike, moving through a rolling and ever-changing landscape I am reminded of how Rosseau describes his hiking. How the swift movement gets the thoughts flowing, gives them courage and space to go beyond the constraints and limitations we give so often give them;
When I am in one place I can hardly think at all. My body has to move, to be in movement, for my mind to work. The sight of the landscape, lovely, changing views around every corner, being outdoors, a healthy appetite and the good health the hiking brings me. The good atmosphere in an inn, the absence of everything that reminds me of my dependencies, of everything that reminds me about my situation – all of this frees my mind so that I can let my thoughts flow freely, with more courage and I can combine, sort and make them my own, without any fear or limitations.
Rosseau writes this about hiking. It could just as well had been about riding a bike. The flow of thoughts, a stream of consciousness and free associations. Sometimes, riding alone, I can hardly remember where I have ridden, or what has happened. My thoughts have flown, meanings, insights, interpretations of thoughts and ideas have come and gone. Very often I don’t remember a whole lot, but I have experienced things that stay in the back of my mind after such rides. Those are the important things that will come out later. Be it decisions I have to take, ideas that are worth trying or just a solution to a practical problem at home.
Time to ride. We head out of the woods and the gnarly roads. There will be chatter, there will be silence and our thoughts will flow. Freely and without any limitations or fear.